Well, it’s been just over a month since International Women’s Day, and we’ve just gone past Equal Pay Day in the USA. For those who don’t know, Equal Pay day is a variable date that reflects at what point women have made the same amount of income that men made in the preceding year. The current wage gap means that it took from January 1 2015 to April 12 2016 for women to make the same wage that a man made in 2015.
Surprisingly, I received vey little push back. I only had one (yes, male) person tell me that language evolves and I was wrong. He did this privately.
He did, however, give me an idea. He told me someone as his work had programmed SlackBot to respond every time someone use the word “guys” and how annoying it was.
Lightbulb. I implemented this on our Slack at SEEK.
It lasted 2 days before someone took it off.
Well, that wasn’t going to stop me. I decided to call out these “indiscretions” whenever they occur so that people are able to see that the words they choose to use are important. If we’re going to create change, we need to highlight the (usually unconscious) bias in people’s choice of words and change the language.
An inanimate object given a gender? I call it out.
This guy. Him. Her. It.
Yes, “it”, arrow icons don’t need to have a gender.
The new developer talks about about programmers in general and uses the term “he”
Someone refers to our coffee machine as a “he”?
Someone senior refers to our 500 error Astronaut as a he
The visual designer confirmed the Astronaut is a female.
Someone senior wants to implement a feature that may feed in to the gender confidence gap.
I think this will reduce female confidence but make no difference to mediocre white dudes
Everyone steps back. It just got awkward. I was “brave” for saying this to a PM.
It’s not brave. It’s assertive for the greater good.
Be the change you want to see in the world, no matter how small.
So, I’m a feminazi. But what I have noticed is that people around me are more aware of their language. It’s not uncommon for me to hear:
Hey guys…. Sorry Kayla
Or, when referring to a user of unknown gender:
He…. Or she. Sorry Kayla.
Them, I offer.
The language in emails has changed too.
I’ve seen a lot of:
- Hi Crew
- Hi Folks
- Hi Both
- Hi all
The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. Don’t be afraid to call out people out, even if they’re more senior than you.
Thanks to all my male allies who make this conversation easier to have by listening, understanding and supporting a change in language.